Hand-foot-and-mouth disease — a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children — is characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus.
There’s no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact with people who are infected with hand-foot-and-mouth disease may help reduce your child’s risk of infection.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Symptoms
Early symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Painful blisters inside a child’s mouth, usually toward the back, or on their tongue
- Feeling unwell (malaise)
- Loss of appetite
A day or two later, a child might have:
- A rash that turns into blisters
- Flat spots or sores on their knees, elbows, or buttocks
Mouth sores can make it hurt to swallow. Eating or drinking less than usual could be the only sign of a child’s illness. Be sure they get enough fluids and nutrients.
Causes of hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often caused by a strain of coxsackievirus, most commonly coxsackievirus A16. The coxsackievirus is part of a group of viruses called enteroviruses. In some cases, other types of enteroviruses can cause hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Viruses can be easily spread from person-to-person. You or your child may contract hand, foot, and mouth disease through contact with an infected person’s:
- fluid from blisters
- respiratory droplets sprayed into the air after coughing or sneezing
Hand, foot, and mouth disease can also be transmitted through direct contact with unwashed hands or a surface containing traces of the virus.
When to see a doctor
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually a minor illness causing only a few days of fever and relatively mild signs and symptoms. Contact your doctor if mouth sores or a sore throat keep your child from drinking fluids. And contact your doctor if after a few days, your child’s signs and symptoms worsen.